The old and the new of Tokyo

Two weeks in Japan

February / March 2024

In 2024 I traveled to Japan to run the Tokyo Marathon and complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors. More importantly this trip was an opportunity to finally see Japan. I really enjoyed Japan – things were generally organized, clean, safe, the train system is one of the best in the world, etc. The country is an interesting blend of the old & the new.

The first part of the trip was Tokyo followed by taking the shinkansen down to Kyoto (starting in the new capital and traveling to the old capital). Seeing more than one city really helps you compare and contrast.

Looking out over Asakusa
Kimono dress-up at Senso-ji
Heian Shrine in Kyoto
Vending machines
Back street in Tokyo
Lost children's shrine
Museum umbrella safe storage
Mt Fuji by shinkansen

Mt Fuji by shinkansen.


If Japan is a blend of the old & the new then perhaps there's nowhere where that's more apparent than Kyoto. Scattered around a modern city are pockets of traditional Shinto shrines. It's almost hard to not stumble upon them. Some are large complexes of buildings but others are small roadside miniatures (hokora shrines).

The sound of trickling water into stone basins, the smell of incense, lanterns swaying in the breeze, Shinto shrines are peaceful invitations to step out of the busier city.

The Kiyomizu-Dera lost children's shrine
Tōdai-ji temple in Nara
Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine
Tori gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine
Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine
Roadside shrine
Kiyomizu-Dera and the Heian Shrine
Nijō Castle wall

The deer of Nara

Perhaps the most famous thing about the town of Nara is the deer. Walk about 10 mins from the train station towards Nara Park and you start to encounter the sika deer. These diminutive deer have learned to bow to receive snacks from humans and a thriving tourist trade has developed because of it. You can buy special crackers from vendors to feed the deer who will happily follow you as long as you still have food.

The trip to Nara is an easy daytrip from Kyoto. One of my favoririte parts was taking the regional train and seeing normal life in Japan. The backs of houses, gas stations, small train stations, farms, everyday life just like home but half a world away.

A vendor selling deer crackers
The deer of Nara
Up close and personal with a nosy deer
The deer of Nara
The deer are big business in Nara
Saki offering at Meiji Jingu

Saki offering at Meiji Jingu in Tokyo.

Side street of Tokyo
My Neighbor Totoro catbus and old Tokyo vanishing
Mario at the Nintendo store
Traditional performance during the marathon
Gotokuji Temple
Maneki-nekos aka Lucky Cats